Happy Birthday Nick

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I recently celebrated a birthday….not an important one but a Birthday nonetheless.

As a Precision Marketing strategist, practitioner and consultant, I am registered with and keep a close watch on over 40 major brand CRM programs across a wide range of categories and industries.

And do you know how many ‘Happy Birthday’ messages I received from said brands on my birthday…..? One…..just a single Birthday wish landed in my inbox ! Truly, I would argue, a staggering miss by the other 39+ brands.

Staggering because a triggered Birthday communication is proven to be one of the most effective, and most simple to implement, tactics in the direct marketers toolkit.

I am always amazed at how consumers are still seemingly surprised to see that a brand knows it’s their birthday but chuffed and happy to receive a message or even a gift, reward or incentive. Recent insights from journalist and consultant Jeanne Jennings, writing on ClickZ in 2011, provides evidence from client case studies that birthday emails can lift conversion rates by over 60% over non-birthday email messages with the same offer. Given such a significant potential uplift, it is surprising to read research from Silverpop who found in a recent study that seven in 10 email marketers don’t send birthday emails and that, on top of that, 75% of email marketers who don’t send birthday emails say they don’t ever intend to.

From my experience at Diageo, where I was Global Head of Digital Marketing, we continually found that Birthday emails (and direct mail packs) were the best performing communications of the year and the simplest to personalise and provide value-adding content and relevant rewards or messages. It seemed a no-brainer to us to recognise such an important event in our journey to build emotional and personal relationships with our higher value consumers.

Indeed, back in 2007 the Guinness ‘Pub Landlord’ birthday campaign ended up taking the Grand Prix at the Precision Marketing Awards, delivering results including 60%+ open rates, 95% interacting fully with the mechanic and 96% unprompted recall in post campaign research !

So, I must offer my hearty congratulations to Coca-Cola (disclosure: a client of TCF’s) for still believing in the basics and sending me a compelling birthday from the My Coke Rewards loyalty program with a message encouraging me to interact with the website, view a special video and earn and burn my points.

Why are other brands not getting with the program on this basic tactic ? Why do so many brands seem to skip over such basics ?

I fear it comes down to poor basic data understanding, a lack of good planning and a lack of managed contact strategies. I also fear what with the increasing focus on ‘big data’, the focus on ‘simple data’ is being overlooked.

My fellow TCF Director, Andy Green, recently wrote on this topic arguing that “big data is often an expensive distraction” and that “organisations should focus first on closing the capability gaps to better use the customer data they already have”.

I couldn’t agree more. As Andy eloquently highlights, and as reported in Marketing Week in April, brands need to be very wary of the impending global shortage of data skilled professionals at a time when there is ever-increasing pressure to prove the worth of Marketing activities and get maximum value from customer data.

Marketing Week report on a study from IT consultancy EMC who found that there is little confidence that firms have the skills to use the data they have to make sound business decisions and only a third of companies are very confident about making decisions based on new data, according to the research.

As Virgin Media Director of Customer Insight, Michael Payne, says “If marketing is to be seen as an investment, rather than a cost, it must be positioned as a quantifiable discipline. It needs to be seen as much more data-driven. The UK has a shortage of data-driven marketers”.

I agree with Mr Payne, and if as much attention is paid to Precision Marketing training and Data training as is paid to Digital Marketing training, then perhaps brands would understand the need to crack some of the basics of good customer management, such as sending highly effective and impactful – and simple – Birthday communications !

Perhaps, given my birthday was 11/4, and bearing in mind this gap in basic data skills, I should actually expect more Birthday wishes on November 4th than I received on April 11th !

We’d love to hear your thoughts and views.

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